Walter Swinburn, often hailed as one of the shining stars of his time in the world of horse racing, has sadly passed away at the age of 55.

After taking over his father-in-law, Peter Harris, training licence in November 2004, Swinburn sent out almost 260 winners from his headquarters in Hertfordshire

Known as the ‘Choirboy’, Swinburn, then 19 years old, won three races for him in the Epsom Classic with Shergar (1981 Derby), Lammtarra (1995) and Shahrastani (1986).

Before retiring in 2000, he had numerous other notable victories in major races across the globe on his resume.

One of the most well-known jockeys of his day and the rider of the exceptional Shergar.

Before retiring in 2000, he had numerous other notable victories in major races across the globe on his resume.

Walter’s legacy in the sport is nothing short of legendary. At just 19, Walter rode Shergar to a record-breaking 10-length victory in the Derby in 1981.

Swinburn rode with confidence that came from having a rich natural skill and was acknowledged as one of the best and most fashionable jockeys of his day.

He rode his first winner, Paddy’s Luck, at Kempton Park in July 1978. Shergar was the jockey’s first ride in the Classic; given his relative inexperience, Stoute might have easily looked for a replacement for Swinburn at Epsom.

But after a decisive victory for horse and rider in the Chester Vase, he remained faithful to the innocent-looking youth who was popularly referred to as “the Choirboy.”

At Epsom, Shergar easily defeated his field, taking the lead and heading home near Tattenham Corner. He kept his distance from his rivals for most of the straight until Swinburn began to close the distance as he approached the finish line.

Lester Piggott took the jockey’s place in the saddle for the Irish Derby and won handsomely, but Swinburn returned when the outstanding three-year-old won the King George & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot.

Almost definitely the second-best runner in the Classic five years later, Swinburn’s well-judged ride on Shahrastani thwarted the fast-finishing Dancing Brave, who had turned for home with many lengths to make up.

Swinburn was riding by far the greatest horse in the 1981 Derby. In 1995, he rode Lammtarra to his third and last Derby victory, dedicating the victory to the colt’s first trainer, Alex Scott, who had been killed nine months previously. 

Swinburn won all four of Britain’s other Classic events at least once but was defeated aboard Shergar in the 1981 St. Leger, leading to the colt’s retirement to stud.

Along with All Along, he also won the 1983 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. In 1996, Stoute’s Pilsudski won the Breeders’ Cup Turf.

From the beginning of his riding career, Swinburn battled with his weight, and in 1996, at the Sha Tin racecourse in Hong Kong, he was propelled into a running rail, suffering a punctured lung, and spent four days in a coma.

Due to weight concerns, he resigned from racing in 2000, He had saddled more than 250 winners, including Julienas in the 2011 Royal Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot.

In addition, Swinburn authored a weekly column and was a pundit for the Channel 4 Racing team.

While Swinburn was the stable rider, James Fanshawe, a trainer from Newmarket who assisted Stoute, said on Monday that Swinburn had been a “brilliant” jockey and that his successful relationship with the determined miler Zilzal demonstrated Swinburn’s compassion for his horses.

His bravery and unparalleled talent on the racetrack won him admiration from fans and peers alike.

The racing community mourns the loss of such an exceptional jockey, and he will forever hold a special place in the hearts of many.

However, Walter Swinburn’s passing also brings to light a crucial topic: the importance of having a will.

Walter, unfortunately, didn’t leave behind a will, resulting complications in the administration of his estate of £3.8 million estate, although monies were eventually passed on to his two children.

He and his wife parted ways in 2014 after a decade-long union.

As Walter hadn’t made a will, it is “odds on” that he would not have planned to avoid Inheritance Tax, so our estimate of the likely IHT bill is around £ 1,340,000

Walter isn’t alone in this oversight. Many celebrities, including the iconic musician Prince and the legendary soul singer Aretha Franklin, also passed away without a will, leading to complicated legal battles and public family disputes over their vast estates.

When someone passes away without a valid will, their assets are distributed based on specific guidelines, known as the rules of intestacy. It’s essential to understand that:

  • If you don’t have a will, the intestacy rules dictate how your estate is shared out.
  • An invalid will is treated as if there was no will at all.
  • There’s a set hierarchy for inheritance, with only direct family members being eligible.
  • Modern family structures, like unmarried partners or friends, aren’t recognised under these rules.
  • The intricacies of multiple marriages and divorces can further complicate matters.
  • If you’re financially dependent but don’t inherit under intestacy, you might still have a claim under the Inheritance Act.

The rules can be stringent, especially in today’s diverse family setups.

For instance, unmarried partners or those in unregistered relationships won’t automatically inherit the deceased’s sole assets.

But there’s hope, as they can often stake a valid inheritance claim or have the distribution legally altered to include them. Similarly, while the rules recognise only natural and adopted children, stepchildren might still have a valid claim in many scenarios.

In horse racing, where every decision, every turn, and every stride matters, so does planning matter to your family.

If you want to ensure your loved ones are taken care of and your assets are distributed as per your wishes, making a will is of prime importance. It’s the only way to provide clarity and peace of mind for those you leave behind.

After all, life, much like a race, is unpredictable, and it’s always best to be prepared for the final stretch.

The only way to make it absolutely clear who should inherit your property and possessions after you pass away is by making a will.

Don’t wait for a life-altering event to prompt you into action – check out how well your family is protected by viewing our free video TODAY!

Picture of Ray Best

Ray Best

Like his academic development, writing came late to Ray. He has written several published works, “Inheritance Tax Planning – My Way” and “Shareholder Protection & Partnership Protection” and has had four feature articles published in Tax Adviser magazine, but the publication he is most noted for is the joint collaboration with Tony Granger “Inheritance Tax Simplified”.

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